Canmore is at the centre of some of the best ice climbing in the world. To the west are the climbs in Banff and Jasper National Parks, to the east is Kananaskis Country, to the north is the Ghost River Valley, far south is Waterton area and nearby are dozens of fun climbs.
One of the most popular climbing areas close to town is the Canmore Junkyard, also known as the Junkyards. It’s a collection of curtains and gullies below Grassi Lakes. The approach is 10 minutes, there’s no avalanche hazard and it holds some excellent beginner lines.
The first route climbed at the Junkyards was the Scottish Gully in 1975 by legendary Scottish climbers Bugs McKeith and Dick Howe. It was one of the first ice lines ever climbed in the Rockies. McKeith and Howe are no longer with us, but they were leading alpine, rock and ice climbers back in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Junkyards are composed of two ice routes: the Scottish Gully and the main flow. The main flow starts to the right of the approach trail and is between 40 and 50 metres long and ranges from WI2 to WI4. The Scottish Gully starts to the left of the approach trail and has one main ice-choked ramp the rises past short bulges.
It can be climbed as one 45-metre pitch or you can continue up two more pitches towards Grassi Lakes. In total, you can climb a non-exposed three-pitch WI2 that offers nice views of the big limestone walls above.
I try to climb this route at least once every winter for a number of reasons: it’s fun, easy, close to town, the scenery and because of the history. If you’re looking for a mellow morning climb, add it to the tick-list.
The Scottish Gully
Get there: Park at Lower Grassi parking. Follow wide trail below hydro lines towards the obvious ice to the south. Pass hydro station and up to climbs. The Scottish Gully starts on the left.
Pitch one: Climb the icy ramp up and left to trees (WI2 45m). Belay off tree.
Pitch two: Walk left and down to the base of a low-angle ramble (WI2 30m). Belay off tree.
Pitch three: Head up the fatter curtain with two “steep” sections to the top (WI2 25m). Belay off tree. Feature photo above.
Descent: Continue right to Grassi Lakes trail and back up left to the lakes and descent trail.
For the Tick-List
Crime of the Century 5.11c in Squamish
Gooseberry 5.8 in Banff
Pennylane 5.9 in Squamish
Exasperator 5.10c in Squamish
Sunshine Crack 5.11 in the Bugaboos
Five Val-David routes in Quebec
Northeast Face 5.6 of Ha Ling in Canmore
Slab Alley 5.9 in Squamish
The Colossus 5.11 and Titon Crack 5.10 in Ontario
Bottom Line 5.12 in Skaha
Les Grands Galets 5.12d at Cap Trinité, Quebec
Polar Circus WI5 700m in Rockies
The Monument 5.12a Trad in Ontario